As ever at this time of year, many journalists, industry commentators and other pundits have been busily writing their predictions for the year ahead. Here are six predictions that caught our eye.
Impact investing grows up.
Impact investing (investing for both monetary and societal gain) was the subject of many headlines in 2013, with the launch of major initiatives including Big Society Capital and the G8 Social Investment Forum. Nesta, an innovation charity, estimates that globally there are now hundreds of billions of pounds available for impact investments, and that 2014 could be the year that the movement definitively develops beyond its nascence.
Virgin Galactic takes off.
Sir Richard Branson, writing in The Economist, has promised that 2014 will see the first commercial spaceflight. SpaceShipTwo will carry six passengers to an altitude of 100km. 600 people have confirmed bookings for trips to space at a cost of $250,000 each, and around 65,000 would-be astronauts have signed up to the waiting list.
Google Glass accelerates the ‘wearables’ revolution.
Google’s wearable computer is set for a full launch in the US in 2014. New platforms take a while to catch on, and it is unlikely that Google Glass will be a instant mainstream hit. But Deloitte (in its annual tech predictions report) points out that the global group of early-adopters is still likely to number in the millions. Deloitte expects Google to shift 100m units by 2020.
Big Data gets personal.
Big Data has been a hot topic for several years now, and as consumers we are all aware that companies are collating vast quantities of information about us. Organisations like the Midata Innovation Lab are now working on ways of collating and analysing consumer data from multiple sources, to create powerful personal applications that could help individuals manage issues including health, finances and energy consumption.
Rise of the altcoins.
In January last year a Bitcoin cost just $13. Today the price is hovering around $1,000. And yet the volume of transactions conducted in Bitcoins has remained more-or-less static over the past year. A number of financial commentators believe this is not a sustainable state of affairs, and some have predicted that Bitcoin’s price could fall as low as $50 in 2014. Money now seems to be pouring in to some of the other crypto-currencies, or altcoins, that have followed in Bitcoin’s wake. For example, the value of Litecoins, launched in 2011, suddenly spiked in November 2013. Could 2014 see the start of Bitcoin’s demise, as investors look to make money from other altcoins?
3D printing takes big steps in healthcare.
3D printing has been an almost compulsory feature of any tech predictions list for a few years now. But 2014 could bring truly exciting news – the first 3D printed human organ. Biotech firm Organovo expects to be able to print a human liver by the end of the year. It will not be possible to use the liver for transplants (yet), but the company says it could be used by pharmaceutical companies in clinical trials, dramatically reducing the cost of drug development.